Hasmukh Shah, who is known for his illustrious career in the government sector, including as joint secretary during three successive terms at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) from 1977, breathed his last at Shree Krishna Hospital in Gujarat’s Karamsad on Friday. He was 89.
Shah, who had been suffering from a prolonged illness, tested positive for Covid on November 12 and later developed post-Covid complications, his family told The Indian Express.
He began his career as a lecturer of sociology at Gujarat University in 1957 and researched Mahatma Gandhi’s works until 1963. According to his daughter Alpana Parida, Shah was invited to join the Prime Minister’s Office in 1977 when Morarji Desai was the Prime Minister, despite having no background in civil services. “He never appeared for any civil services exam. It was on an invite from Morarji Desai that he joined the PMO and served three Prime Ministers. He lived a full life and we celebrate his memory even as we pray for the departed soul,” she told The Indian Express,
Parida said Shah, who was fully vaccinated, had tested positive for Covid on November 12. “He had a prolonged age-related illness. But Covid-19 complications resulted in his death,” she said.
Shah served in the PMO during the tenure of Morarji Desai, Charan Singh and Indira Gandhi. He was also the former chairman and managing director of Indian Petrochemicals Corporation Limited (IPCL) before it was privatised. While at IPCL, he persuaded GE’s Jack Welch to set up a joint venture for the development of engineering plastics and worked to propagate the application of plastics in agriculture through drip irrigation and canal lining, across packaging, film and textiles. It was during Shah’s tenure that the UK’s Chemical Insight rated IPCL as the best international petrochemical company.
The former bureaucrat also used his post-retirement period to set up several institutions. He was the founder of Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC), Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology (GUIDE), Gujarat Ecology Society (GES), Gujarat Nature Conservation Society (GNCS) and the founder chairman of the Heritage Trust. He was also the chairman of GRISERV, an organisation for rural and tribal development.
He headed the governing council of the National Institute of Design (NID) for over a decade and was a member of the board of governors at IIT-Bombay as well as at the Institute of Rural Management in Anand, rural university Lok Bharti and Surendranagar Education Society.
He chaired search committees for vice-chancellors and institute directors and was the president of the Charutar Arogya Mandal, a 550-bed hospital and medical college, as well as the Shram Mandir Trust, which works for leprosy eradication and rehabilitation.
As founder-trustee of the Darshak Itihas Nidhi (DIN), he organised several multi-disciplinary international conferences on Gujarat’s Maritime History and sponsored scholarships and publications on the subject. He was also the chairman of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).
In his memoir ‘Dithu Mai’, released in Gujarati in 2014, Shah chronicled several historical events that he witnessed, including the crash of Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s plane at Jorhat in 1978, the Sydney bombing of the Commonwealth heads’ meeting, the Tiananmen Square protests and many other events. The English edition of the book ‘From the Margins of History’ will be released shortly.
Shah is survived by his wife Nila, son Amlan and daughter Alpana.
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